FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Hundreds of Screaming Eagle Soldiers departed June 27 from Campbell Army Airfield on a nine-month deployment to Europe to assure NATO allies and deter Russian aggression in the region.
Elements of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and 101st Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), have been assigned to carry out the mission, which marks the first time the division has deployed to Europe in nearly 80 years.
“We’re going to check the Russian influence and we’re going to impact the Russians’ decision-making for probably the next 10-20 years,” said Col. John Lubas, deputy commanding officer for operations, 101st Abn. Div., in a pre-deployment briefing. “We’re going to do this with all our partners in NATO, the European Union and the West, and this is an incredibly important mission.”
Lubas said the Soldiers will contribute to that mission by representing the 101st with excellence in training exercises across Europe.
“The first couple of weeks are going to be really aggressive as you figure out what’s going on, what your mission’s going to be and where you’re going to get settled in,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Veronica Knapp, division senior enlisted adviser. “But make no mistake, Russia and our NATO allies are watching us. They’ll be looking at our level of motivation, our level of discipline, how we look and how we sound as we get off that plane.”
Many of the Soldiers assigned to the mission in Europe have previous experience with multinational training exercises, including Sgt. James Benzinger, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT.
“I’ve deployed to Asia with the 25th Infantry Division, and working with NATO partners has a similar feel,” Benzinger said. “I’ve never interacted with our NATO allies before but from working with our Asian partners, it’s exciting because other countries have a different way of looking at tactics. I appreciate being able to see their side of things and share ideas.”
Major Andrew Ziskin, 101st HHB, said he too looks forward to training alongside NATO allies while representing the division. He has previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’ve trained with the Iraqi and Afghan police, but this is a chance to train with NATO allies which would be a different mission set,” Ziskin said. “I think it’s historic, I think it’s important and I think there’s a lot to be gained from training alongside NATO and assuring our allies in defense of the nation and the greater security of Western Europe.”
Sergeant Jeannine Mahrling, HHBN, also has experience in Iraq from her first deployment in 2009 and is ready to continue her service in Europe.
“It’s a little different because I didn’t have kids on my first deployment,” Mahrling said. “That’s the biggest difference from that deployment to this one is my Family, and we’re taking it day by day. It’s a new adventure to go into a country I’ve never been to, and I appreciate the possibility of getting to see more.”
Others are deploying for the first time, like 1st Lt. John Provost, 1-75th Cav. Regt. He said the mission’s historical significance particularly resonates with him and that he is proud to support it.
“This is going to be the first time the 101st has been in Europe as a division in decades,” Provost said. “It feels like we’re helping to maintain some of the ground that our forefathers fought so hard for.”
Major General JP McGee, commanding general, 101st Abn. Div. and Fort Campbell, said the division has been in an increased readiness posture for several months and is just as prepared now as during World War II.
“Since D-Day, June 6, 1944, this division has repeatedly answered the nation’s call in every major conflict,” McGee said. “The Screaming Eagles of today are ready to support our allies to preserve the long-lasting stability in Europe that our predecessors fought and died to secure.”